The Heart of Christmas, at the Lakeshore Theater, through January 5. For those who've tasted the 27 flavors of Scrooge this holiday season, here's something different: a musical tale narrated and sung by folk legend Jim Post, aided by his wife, playwright-lyricist Janet Smith Post, and daughter Angel Daniel. The narrative borrows heavily from Mark Twain: we find two boys from opposite sides of the tracks sharing a friendship, a life-threatening episode involving a peg-legged villain, plenty of quaint witticisms, and a riverboat as the vehicle of adventure. In fact the narrator could pass for Twain--and has portrayed him in a previous production--with his thick snowy hair and voice that growls, purrs, and snickers life into his characters.
The story, however, meanders and drifts in very un-Twain-like fashion, often feeling like an elaborate, disjointed means of segueing from one Christmas tune to another. Situations are resolved too quickly and easily, most notably in the case of the villain, who moves unaccountably from evil hermit to town benefactor (plus his dialect wavers from Scottish to swashbuckling pirate). Then again, Post's easy tenor warms the auditorium with a dozen (mostly original) Christmas songs; the women provide gentle harmonies as they gaze adoringly at Post from behind their matching velvet-draped keyboards. Despite the dearth of narrative structure and a slight excess of sugar, the evening does evoke the simple, cozy nostalgia nestled at the heart of Christmas.